Olive Farmer Unearths an Ancient Mosaic in Gaza

The Byzantine-era floor was discovered accidentally. However, the remains of walls and glass artifacts show that the area could yield even more stunning discoveries.

Byzantine-era mosaic floor in Gaza, Palestine - 18 Sept 2022 (AP)
By Paolo DeAndreis
Sep. 27, 2022 13:44 UTC
Byzantine-era mosaic floor in Gaza, Palestine - 18 Sept 2022 (AP)

The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has con­firmed that archae­ol­o­gists are work­ing in an olive grove near the Bureji refugee camp in Gaza.

They are explor­ing the remains of an ancient Byzantine floor dis­cov­ered by a local olive grower that dates back to some­where between the 5th and the 7th cen­tury CE.

These are the most beau­ti­ful mosaic floors dis­cov­ered in Gaza, both in terms of the qual­ity of the graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the com­plex­ity of the geom­e­try.- René Elter, arche­ol­o­gist, French Archeology School of Jerusalem

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Salman al-Nabahin noticed that sev­eral young olive trees recently planted were not root­ing as expected. He dug under­neath them with his son and found what experts now believe is the most well-pre­served and detailed mosaic ever found in Gaza.

The olive farmer explained that the unique nature of the find­ings was not evi­dent at first. I searched on the inter­net,” he told Reuters. We learned it was a mosaic belong­ing to the Byzantine era. I see it as a trea­sure, dearer than a trea­sure. It isn’t per­sonal; it belongs to every Palestinian.”

See Also:2,300-Year-Old Olive Oil Lamp Unearthed in the West Bank

Once the roots and soil had been removed, the first glimpse of the floor revealed col­or­ful dec­o­ra­tions depict­ing ani­mals and scenes of Byzantine life. Experts still have not deter­mined whether the mosaic was part of a reli­gious or res­i­den­tial area.

The Palestinian archae­ol­o­gists are now work­ing to bring the entire site to light. The archae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­ery is still in its early stages, and we await to know more of the secrets and civ­i­liza­tion val­ues,” the min­istry wrote.

René Elter, an archae­ol­o­gist from the French Archeology School of Jerusalem, which is assist­ing with the exca­va­tion, told the Associated Press that these are the most beau­ti­ful mosaic floors dis­cov­ered in Gaza, both in terms of the qual­ity of the graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the com­plex­ity of the geom­e­try.”


Byzantine-era mosaic floor in Gaza, Palestine — 18 Sept 2022 (AP)

Never have mosaic floors of this finesse, this pre­ci­sion in the graph­ics and rich­ness of the col­ors been dis­cov­ered in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

So far, Salman al-Nabahin’s find has allowed archae­ol­o­gists to iden­tify another area that indi­cates the pres­ence of walls and arti­facts, both of which may lead to fur­ther dis­cov­er­ies.

One of the already exca­vated holes shows 17 tiles with mosaic iconog­ra­phy, while two oth­ers show tiles that might have been dam­aged or dis­placed over time by the roots of an old olive tree. The mosaic itself seems to cover an area of approx­i­mately 23 square meters.

Given the cru­cial role of the area as a trad­ing hub for many dif­fer­ent civ­i­liza­tions over many cen­turies, such find­ings con­firm the enor­mous archae­o­log­i­cal poten­tial of the Gaza Strip.

Asa Eger, an archae­ol­o­gist of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro who spe­cial­ized in Byzantine and Islamic archae­ol­ogy in the Levant, told The Art Newspaper that it is a spec­tac­u­lar find, espe­cially as our knowl­edge of archae­ol­ogy is sadly so spotty given cir­cum­stances there.

Gaza was very impor­tant dur­ing the period of this mosaic and known for its bur­geon­ing wine pro­duc­tion exported across the Mediterranean,” he added.

Local experts warned that such a unique site must be fully pro­tected. The area is located near the Israeli bor­der, and given the high ten­sions between the two sides, it is con­sid­ered at risk of fur­ther dam­age.

Last month, a three-day clash led to shelling in the area. The olive farmer cov­ered the vis­i­ble por­tions of the floor with tin sheets to pre­serve the site. According to Elter, it is imper­a­tive to quickly orga­nize an emer­gency res­cue inter­ven­tion.”

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